Do I dare make a December reading list? I’m not so sure I do after last month’s failed attempt, especially considering December was the month last year that I managed to read the fewest books due to the busy holiday season. So I think I’ll learn my lesson from last year (when I attempted to read a 700 – 800 page book that I just didn’t have time for) and stick to short-ish books for December. I am going to set goals of reading The Dragons of Hazlett by Michelle Scott and The Wolverine Files by Mike W. Barr since they’re not too long and have been in my pile for a while, though.

Right now I’m most of the way through The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay, which I’m having fun with. Next I’m not sure what to read – I’m considering Graceling, Unseen Academicals, Hunting Ground, Night’s Master, Resenting the Hero or a Catherine Asaro book. And several others. (I’m not at all indecisive.)

November was a great reading month since I read three books that I loved above and beyond the average “good” book – Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor, By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear and Black Ships by Jo Graham (which I’m working on a review of now).

What’s everyone planning to read this December? Has anyone else found they have the same problem with reading this month that I do?

So much for getting caught up on all my reviews this vacation weekend… I was planning to but I’ve been on the computer far less than normal. (Apparently, planning isn’t working well this month since I only read about half the books on my reading list for the month.) When I do start writing them, I’ve got three reviews to do now: Black Ships by Jo Graham (great book), An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures by David West and Anita Ganeri (good for the right age group), and Busted Flush edited by George R. R. Martin (pretty good). I just started reading The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay, which has started out fast-paced and entertaining.

This week I got one book that I ordered a little while ago.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

This is one I have really wanted ever since reading Thea’s review at The Book Smugglers. Part Jane Austen, part Charlotte Bronte and a fantasy book? Sounds like a book I must read! I had been waiting for the cheaper trade paperback release (which was earlier this month so it is out now), but recently Amazon had the hardcover as one of it’s bargain books so it was actually cheaper than even the $10 trade paperback price. Of course, that was a deal I simply could not resist.

By the Mountain Bound
by Elizabeth Bear
320pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 2/5

By the Mountain Bound is the second book in The Edda of Burdens series by Elizabeth Bear even though it is actually a prequel to the first book, All the Wind-wracked Stars (review). The series is based on Norse mythology and the first novel began with the end of the world. By the Mountain Bound fills in the backstory leading up to this cataclysmic event. The third book, The Sea thy Mistress, is scheduled for release in October 2010.

For over 500 years, the Children of the Light (other than the outcast Mingan, the Wolf) have lived together in Valdygard where they follow their leader Strifbjorn. In spite of his status with the other Children, Strifbjorn is rather fond of Mingan, who does visit Valdygard for major events including the wedding that the historian Muire recalls as the beginning of the end. For after the wedding, Strifbjorn found what appeared to be a nearly dead mortal woman washed up on the shore. However, it soon becomes apparent that she is no mortal as the woman defeats warriors with an uncanny strength. She claims to be the Lady they have been waiting for, and the Children of the Light are then divided, leading to the events the previous novel began with.

The narrative in By the Mountain Bound is divided among three perspectives: that of the Wolf, Mingan; the Historian, Muire; and the Warrior, Strifbjorn. Mingan and Muire’s parts are both told in the first person, but Strifbjorn’s sections are told in the third person. This seems fitting as Mingan and Muire both seem to be more central characters, particularly Mingan who was the most prominent one of the three and my favorite to read about (although Muire was a close second).

Bear is not easy on her characters and all three have it pretty rough, especially Mingan. Mingan is feared by all the einherjar and valkyrie with the exception of Strifbjorn. When he shows up at the wedding, Muire ends up having to serve him because nobody else will go near him, and even she runs away once she has given him his drink. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Mingan when reading the parts told from his perspective. Although she is not an outcast, Muire does not seem to quite fit in with the other valkyries since she is more of a scholar than a warrior. Like most of the valkyries, Muire is in love with Strifbjorn, who is not particularly keen on choosing a wife even though he is expected to. Of course, those who have read All the Wind-wracked Stars know that it will only get worse for Muire at the end. Strifbjorn may seem to have it pretty good as a leader loved by his people, but even he is haunted by expectations and past mistakes.

The pacing is somewhat slow since there is a lot of time spent on the world and characters. It’s one of those books in which one is thrust right into the story and may feel a little lost at first. There’s a rare subtlety, and personally I love the fact that Bear treats her readers like they are intelligent people who do not need everything spelled out for them (and as you read more, it becomes much clearer). After reading this novel, I suspect that I’d get more from a reread of All the Wind-wracked Stars, which is another reason I love not being told all the details about everything right up front. All the layers make it far more interesting and a better candidate for reading multiple times.

The language and writing are lovely – it’s not dense but it is still descriptive and packed with emotion. Bear did post some excerpts from the beginning on her blog so I’d suggest anyone who is interested check those out:

By the Mountain Bound is one of those books that appeals to me since it has so many of my favorite story elements – the basis in mythology, the broken characters, the beautiful writing, and the subtlety and layers. It was even more enjoyable than All the Wind-wracked Stars or even any of the other novels I’ve read by Elizabeth Bear, and learning about the events leading up to the previous volume added new depth to it.


Where I got my reading copy: I received a copy from the publisher.

Other Reviews:

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had any TBR additions, but this week I do have one review copy I received.

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

This debut urban fantasy is coming out on Tuesday (November 24). For a while, I was urban fantasied out (especially if it had vampires with the exception of the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs) but I read the first four pages and think I’ll be reading this one after I finish the book I’m reading right now. It seemed fast-paced and easy to get drawn into. This is also urban fantasy of the non-vampire variety, so that’s a plus as well.

Tia from Debuts & Reviews will be reviewing it soon and mentioned on Twitter that she is enjoying it so far, and Donna from Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings also had good things to say about it.

As I was browsing the giveaways on Goodreads tonight, I noticed they are giving away 10 copies of Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor (it is only available to US residents, though, unfortunately). This was the last book I reviewed and I absolutely loved it – it is even one of my top reads of the year so far.

It has been a little slow here lately, but I’m planning to get back on track this weekend. For a while I was busy and didn’t have as much time for reading and writing, but I have been working on a review of By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear this week (which I liked even more than All the Wind-wracked Stars). So I am hoping to get a review of that up in the next couple of days. I also just finished reading a short book to review, An Illustrated Guide to Mythical Creatures. And with a four day weekend coming up, there will be more time for reading and writing reviews soon.

The November reading plan has failed since I was being a very moody reader and ended up deciding none of the books I tried next were working with that mood. Black Ships by Jo Graham did, however, so I’ve been reading that and really like it so far.

Lips Touch: Three Times
by Laini Taylor
272pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5

Lips Touch: Three Times is the newest book by Laini Taylor, author of Blackbringer and Silksinger from her Dreamdark series. Like her other two novels, Lips Touch: Three Times is a YA book, although it is darker and seems to be aimed at an older audience than the Dreamdark books (not that the Dreamdark series is not perfectly enjoyable to read as an adult but more parents would feel comfortable giving younger children the Dreamdark books than they would Lips Touch: Three Times). Lips Touch: Three Times was recently nominated for the National Book Awards in the Young People’s Literature category.

This book is actually a collection of three novellas, each involving a story of dangerous love. It contains beautiful illustrations by Taylor’s husband, Jim di Bartolo, who also does all of her gorgeous book covers. I felt the artwork added a lot to each tale. There were several pictures at the beginning of each novella, and after reading it, I’d always flip back to the art at the beginning and see how each set of art seemed to tell a piece of the story.

Each novella was better than the one preceding it, which is especially good because I was rather disappointed in the first one. However, the next two were both exactly to my taste (they were also darker than the first).

Goblin Fruit

The first novella was the one I thought was the weakest, but it was also by far the shortest since it took up about 1/5 of the entire book. “Goblin Fruit” stems from the author’s love for Christina Rosetti’s poem “Goblin Market.” All of her life, sixteen-year-old Kizzy has been warned about the goblins by her grandmother since her aunt was taken to their land in which she ate of their fruit. Kizzy has always wished to be someone else, which makes her the perfect target for goblins. For the goblins do not seek to ensnare the popular, beautiful girls but prefer the ones who yearn to be so much more than what they are.

The main reason this story did not appeal to me as much as the others is that there was quite a bit of teenage drama – a group of girls hanging out discussing the boys and the other girls. Personally, I’m not at all a fan of reading about what seems like rather shallow, high school conversations about who’s hot or popular. It also contains one of those relationships where the new boy at school likes the plain, unpopular girl (Kizzy) and that storyline doesn’t tend to do much for me, either.

While I did not like most of the story, there were two parts of it that I appreciated. The first of these was the details about Kizzy’s weird family who believed in ghosts and, obviously, goblins. The second and better of the two was the writing, which was beautiful as always and also really managed to capture that feeling of wanting so badly to be more than what you are – dreaming of being able to do anything and everything. This was one of my favorite descriptions of Kizzy’s longing:

Kizzy wanted to be a woman who could dive off the prow of a sailboat into the sea, who would fall back in a tangle of sheets, laughing, and who could dance a tango, lazily stroke a leopard with her bare foot, freeze an enemy’s blood with her eyes, make promises she couldn’t possibly keep, and then shift the world to keep them. She wanted to write memoirs and autograph them at a tiny bookshop in Rome, with a line of admirers snaking down a pink-lit alley. She wanted to make love on a balcony, ruin someone, trade in esoteric knowledge, watch strangers as coolly as a cat. She wanted to be inscrutable, have a drink named after her, a love song written for her, and a handsome adventurer’s small airplane, champagne-christened Kizzy, which would vanish one day in a windstorm in Arabia so that she would have to mount a rescue operation involving camels, and wear an indigo veil against the stinging sand, just like the nomads.

Kizzy wanted. (pp. 41)

On merit of the actual story, I’d give “Goblin Fruit” a 4/10 but due to the fabulous writing and descriptions, it gets an extra point.


Spicy Little Curses Such As These

“Spicy Little Curses Such as These” begins in Hell with the meeting between a demon and an ambassador to Hell, a woman known as “the old bitch.” The demon despises children, and it is Ambassador Estella’s job to save as many of the children that the demon kills as she can. In return for their lives, the ambassador must sacrifice people, murderers or other criminals. On this particular day, the demon offers her all ten of the children he just had killed in an earthquake for free. As usual, “free” is too good to be true and comes with a price: the young ones will be saved if the ambassador will curse a baby girl with the most beautiful voice ever heard. The catch? Anyone who hears her utter a sound will drop dead. Estella is horrified but feels she has no choice but to allow the baby to be cursed since it will save ten innocent lives. So she places the curse on the newborn as required but adds an addendum of her own – that the child will not make a sound until she is old enough to understand what she does.

This tale of the curse and the young woman in India who must live with it is exactly my type of story and I loved every moment of it. Like the previous story, it is beautifully written but it is also excellent storytelling in addition to the prose. It was dark with some supernatural intervention and tough decisions, plus it had some wonderful arguments about superstition as the cursed girl wrestled with whether or not her belief was based on fabrication. If I had one complaint, it would be that the ending was wrapped up too neatly, although it is also not quite as happy as it could have been.



“Hatchling” was the longest, darkest, most fleshed out story and my favorite of the three. Only a few days before Esme’s fourteenth birthday, she awakens to discover her eyes are no longer both brown but one is blue. In addition to this strange occurrence, Esme finds she also remembers events that did not happen to her and comes to the very creepy realization that:
These weren’t her memories. This wasn’t her eye. (pp. 146)

The first thought Esme has is to show her mother, who becomes completely freaked out and flees her home with her daughter. It’s obvious that this is somehow connected to her mysterious past, although she does not know what is happening.

As you read more, Esme’s mother’s tale is revealed and eventually the rest of what is going on is made clear. This is one of those instances that in spite of how much I want to talk about it, I don’t want to give away what happens. So I will just say that what happened to Esme’s mother as a child is rather disturbing and the reason I loved “Hatchling” so much was this darkness, the way information slowly became available the more I read, and the fact that it had the most developed world mythology.


Lips Touch: Three Times is difficult to rate overall since it contained one story that I was not crazy about as well as two that were some of the very best of everything I have read this year. Since the two novellas I loved so much were about 80% of the book and I did enjoy them so thoroughly, I’m going to weigh them far more than the shorter, weaker novella.


Where I got my reading copy: I bought it (because I very much enjoyed the two books by Laini Taylor that I received as review copies).